Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life is too Short to Wait for an Abusive Husband to Change

Yesterday by the time I reached home I was ready for a nap because it was a long day at the training centre followed by the long walk back home but I saw my neighbour has taken all their furniture out. I thought the young couple was moving out. Upon inquiry I found out that only the wife was moving out. It sent a chill down my spine because just there months ago I saw them happily moving in together.

She reported that she was assaulted many times, she was almost crying when she said, "Yesterday, he nearly killed me. I cried for help, didn't you hear me?" She showed her bruised body. We sincere apologised for being such a bad neighbour. We assumed that as a newly wed couple they would still be making love. Literally. We misunderstood those late night screams and banging on the wall.

My wife and I uncomfortably helped the wife load her stuff on the pickup along with the three individuals who were related to the young woman. And without a second thought we prepared refreshment for them. 

As I was serving them refreshment I couldn't help saying this to the wife, "We are sorry for not being there to celebrate your marriage but at least we are happy to be here helping you when you chose your freedom out of the abusive relationship." My wife signalled at me to shut up but I went on, "Why didn't you report to the police?" I just wanted the man to hear it. He was actually a good looking man who had a meek smile perpetually fixed on his lips, quite a contrast to his violent nature.

I didn't know who was right or who was wrong, I didn't even ask why they fought at all. The fact that the man has assaulted the woman broke my heart. Who the hell will protect her if the very man on her bed is assaulting her? I could never understand how one could abuse the very person one has chosen out of everybody on earth.

But I was throughly awed by the young woman's courage to walk out of the abusive relationship right away. I have known many women who hung onto their marriages hoping their men would change but the truth is if you don't walk out on the first slap you are just waiting for the next hundred slaps. It's normal to fight in relationships but violence should never be tolerated. Life is too short to wait for an abusive husband to change and it's too personal to worry about public opinions. 

Disclaimer: This post is based on a incident and therefore the focus is on abusive husband but it can be the other way round too, though not discussed here. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Favourite Mushroom

I couldn't gather the english name of my favourite mushroom despite trying two very authentic mushroom websites. In Haa we call it Chenpo Shamo, literally translating to Liver Mushroom. The local name apparently is derived from the size, color and taste because the mushroom looks and taste like one. However it has sharp odour, which many people won't find pleasant. Perhaps that's why it's not very popular though it's said to have high medicinal values. 

If you are an amateur mushroom picker you wouldn't spare a second glance at it because it's huge, ugly and stinky but if I saw it I would dance three time in extreme joy. 
Chenpo Shamo from Home
My love for this mushroom is inherited from my mother among many. When I go home in summers her grandest way of welcoming me is by keeping stock of this mushroom. Nice neighbours would bring along some when they get it knowing how much we love it. 

This summer my mother wasn't very lucky with this mushroom but she has managed to barter two pieces with the neighbour and sent it to me. It was packed in a carton box and as I opened it the scent filled my room. It thrilled me. It was kind of scent that evoked so many memories from village, like certain music does. Recently my cousin visited me from village and even she brought me few pieces. I have sliced it and sun dried it for future consumption. Because this mushroom comes back alive when soaked in water. 

There are various recipes you can try with this mushroom but nothing beats ezay
Roast the mushroom lightly, 
Slice it into thin pieces, 
Add chilli powder and finish it with few pinches of thingay

If that bitterish liverly taste don't knock you down, tell me! 
Chenpo Shamo Ezay

Earthquake Hoax

མིང་ངན་གྱིས་ཡུལ་དཀྲོགས།། བྱ་ངན་གྱིས་གདངས་དཀྲོགས།།

My mother and I were in constant conversation over the phone debating on the hoaxed earthquake. She heard that it was going to be bigger than the Nepal earthquake and since our house was in bad shape from the last earthquake she has decided to abandon it and sleep in the kitchen garden instead. She saw the people in neighbouring villages pitching tents in their fields. The hoax has created such mass panic in rural areas. 

I told my mother that if His Holiness the Je Khenpo really had a vision of such a natural calamity befalling his people, more than anybody, his compassionate self would inform the nation and not some fool on WeChat.

I asked her, "Would the government leave us in the dark instead of evacuating us to safety?"
"Would I let you stay in that unsafe house all by yourself?" 
"How could you believe some random people and not me?" 
It was hard but I could convince her like I have done several times in the past. This wasn't the first wave of fear that swept across my village

The magnitude of fear and panic the hoax has created among our rural population is beyond forgivable limit. It has gone deep into the simple lives of people and disturb their peace. What do people get from doing this? Who are they? It cannot be one person but a chain of ignorant people who believed in it themselves and then shared their fear. It is a very serious offence and I hope theses people will be traced and punished. 


And more than anything we need to find a permanent solution to this repetitive problem of mass panic created by hoax. The mobile app WeChat, which took internet access to rural population has now become a platform for newer evils, from sharing porn to racial jokes to hoax. What will be the next bad thing people will do on this platform? 


Entitlement

A few years ago I underwent a training in Paro with an Indian company. Some forty teachers were getting trained to be trainers. On the last day of the ten-day training as we were listening to closing speeches, our Bhutanese managers handed us the TADA bill. Our usual entitlements were Nu.500 daily allowance and Nu.14 per km travel allowance but since it was a 'training' some experienced mates told us that we were entitled to Nu.1000 per day. 

While it looked very normal to us, our Indian counterparts watched us in amazement as we claimed out allowances. They told us that in India and elsewhere to get a certified training like that we would have to pay heavy fees. They were throughly surprised that we get paid instead after ten days of training, free notepads, free files, free pens, endless handouts and heavy lunch.

I was as surprised as they were at the discovery because for us in Bhutan workshops and training were our sources of extra income and if we weren't paid we would not have people wanting to attend.

But last Sunday I was up for a surprise; when Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy(BCMD) announced a Professional Skills Workshop (geared towards helping CSO employees overcome their professional challenges) over 30 people signed up. Unlike our usual workshops this one asked for Nu.250 fees. It was to cover the cost of our refreshments and materials. The training itself was still free but looking at the nature  of all the other workshops in the country I didn't expect this to work.

At least half of the people who signed up actually attended the half day workshop with Mr. Sujeev Shakya, CEO of beed management and Chair of the Nepal Economic Forum. It was my first paid workshop and I felt a certain sense of satisfaction. Every minute with Sujeev paid off and for the first time I took home knowledge as entitlement.

The Attendance 

Date: Sunday 23rd AugustTime: 9:00 amVenue: The Media Lab, YDFFee: Nu. 250 (*This fee will cover the cost of your refreshments and materials)


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Plastic Won't Be a Problem in Bhutan

In school we were told plastic was among the worst things that could pollute our environment because it would not disintegrate in 800 years, ok, just say forever. It means that the very first batch of plastic mankind produced, which was in 1862, hasn't yet disappeared and in last many year god knows how much more plastic the world would have produced. Imagine if Zhabdrung had thrown a plastic bag in a field in Punakha it would still be there. But don't worry there wasn't plastic during Zhabdrung's time.

From 1862 to 1970, plastic was seen as a magical material that could be crafted into variety of shapes and substitute precious natural substances like tortoiseshell, ivory, horn, and linen. The revolutionary discovery gained the reputation of being the saviour and protector of natural environment because it drastically reduced on the hunting of elephant and tortoise.

It was the beginning of material abundance that helped people gain access to affordable essential resources when inexpensive plastic replaced the scarce natural resources. Things became cheaper, lighter, safer and stronger. The development of computer, cellphone, and all the advanced technology was made possible by plastic, including electricity and transportation. It raise the living standard of people.

Suddenly in 1970s world woke up and made the once saviour of the natural world into the terror of the natural world. It wasn't the plastic that changed its property suddenly in 1970s. It's like the common Bhutanese saying about how even mother's breast milk can be poisonous if over-consumed. Human beings began using plastic in everything and everywhere without considering where it would land up at the end.

Plastic clogs drainage systems and flood cities, it overwhelms landfills and leach out dangerous chemicals that are threats to lives, in river system it can endanger aquatic lives, it will soon invade our agricultural fields make them infertile, and at the end it will take away our forest. But remember plastic doesn't go there on their own, it's us who ill-manage it. Plastic is a Frankenstein and we are being very insensitive with it.

But in Bhutan we have our smallness on our side, today it may seem like we have plastic problem but if you have observed carefully, one moment you see lots of plastic bottles thrown around and next moment it's gone. It's just a matter of one good solution, because plastic is a magical element. My little niece Bumchu won't leave any plastic pottle at home or in our cars, because her school has the practice of collecting and selling plastic waste to Greener Way.

Now Greener Way has a local market in The Green Road right in Thimphu, where a young entrepreneur, Rikesh Gurung, with the technical capacity and legal right in executing the revolutionary idea of using plastic in blacktopping roads has opened shop. "The technology involves coating of aggregate with molten waste plastic before it is mixed with bitumen. Besides being an effective solution to plastic waste menace, it brings down considerably the cost of laying roads and enhances their life."-The Hindu
Thimphu alone produces 50 tonnes of plastic waste daily and the landfill has over 200,000 tonnes of plastic, says the founder of The Green Road, which means he will have enough resources to make better and cheaper roads in the country, and he will not run out of his key ingredient. And the best part is plastic in Bhutan will not be a problem anymore.

But I'm surprised Rikesh's idea didn't receive red-carpet welcome in the country. If our concerns about plastic waste were genuine and all the headlines meant anything serious I would expect the government to hug the young man because his project can kill two cockroaches at one spank; better road and plastic management.

Interestingly before Rikesh could showcase his first task of blacktopping 30 meters road in Thimphu, another project made a headline. It's about a technology that will be setup at the landfill to convert plastic into crude oil. I am throughly confused now. Rikesh has multi-million plant setup and now another project is threatening to steal away his raw material, what is this all about? Do we have so much plastic waste to feed two big projects? While the rest of the world is suffocating in their plastic waste, it looks like we are going to face plastic waste scarcity. Anyway, it's good for us!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Honest Scooter

A brief story on this incident was earlier posted on my Facebook wall. 

A few days ago I witnessed a disheartening incident at the Changlam square in Thimphu. There was a group of high school girls who hurriedly gathered along the pavement, craned their necks across the road and began laughing at something seemingly very funny. I got curious and walked a few step to get their perspective. I thought they were looking at Phuba Thinley because he was capable of making people laugh on the street.

But just then I saw a young couple riding on an old Bajaj scooter and the girls continued laughing as they passed by. It looked like a typical scene from a movie- a snobbish gang of girls mocking at a poor newcomer in the school parking. The couple seemed to have noticed because they parked behind a car and didn't come out until the girls left.
My Friend Che Dorji sent me this picture to make his statement

I looked at the girls and wondered how it was possible for these young girls to reflect the same old school outlook we saw during our times. I thought their generation shunned this cheap social-status mentality but I felt so sorry to see the dark shadow of our generation cast over their innocent path. They forgot the Cinderella story already. They had
misplaced their values living in our hypocritical society.

For them the scooter was a joke. They couldn't see how unpretentiously the couple rode on what they could afford. They couldn't see the humility of the couple to ride a scooter among the big cars. They couldn't feel that perhaps it could be an honest scooter owned by a content family.

And perhaps they didn't know that laughter could be dangerous; the couple might go home and think of buying a car and to afford the car they will land up selling their happiness, and worse even their honesty and integrity. But I prayerfully hope this didn't happen.

It's not nice to laugh at anybody unless they are joking, but if children love laughing at all I recommend them to laugh at high profile thieves, con artists, and manipulators who have betrayed the king, country and the people. Their name list is with the ACC and many names have already been published in media. They may not be riding on Bajaj scooters but whatever they are driving is stolen.




Monday, August 10, 2015

From the Hospital Bed

Sitting on the stool next to the bed and sleeping on the bed itself are two completely different perspectives in life. I have been in the hospital one too many times, mostly to attend to the sick, sitting on the tall uncomfortable stool.

For a change in perspective, I have always wanted to look at life from the hospital bed once, like taking a vacation from life, but without much pain. I wanted to lie there without a worry in the world. I wanted to take along my laptop and edit my stories, write blogs and contemplate over life.

I know a time will come when I am there on the hospital bed never to return home, to wait for the ultimate end, in pain, without hope, and with only past to look back on. But like a trial run, right now, from the middle of my life and I wanted to do a midlife review when there's still hope, time and energy, so that I could change the way I live the gap between this first review and the final review of my life on earth.

There I was on the hospital bed without any pain and feeling a bit amused. I had an overdue surgery from years ago and this time I had my vacation to finally dare it. When I was admitted I carried my beddings and walked in. The security guard asked if I had a new admission. I said yes. Where? Here! Even he was amused.

My son Jigme, who was supposed to attend to me looked like a patient. He finished few packets of chips before collapsing on the next bed. The nurses were confused every time they came on rounds. In the morning he was the last person to rise. It was kind of a trial run for him too...

It was from 10 pm that things stopped being amusing because I was to start fasting. They started feeding me from my veins. I was experiencing all these for the first time; sleeping on hospital bed, getting an IV, fasting... thank god I had good experience as an attendant to understand whatever was going on. But I couldn't help wonder how a man could be fed from a pinhole on the skin, while throughout our lives we ran after satisfying our expandable mouth.

And the heartbreaking irony was seeing your friends and family come and fill your bedside with loads of edibles when all you could do was to switch your gaze between the IV bottle and the riches on the bedside table.

But to my disappointment I couldn't even open my laptop. It was going to look very rude not to be in pain when rest of your roommates were. It was going to look like another office day. Besides the inspiration you would have while siting on the stool won't come when you were lying on the bed. And soon my mouth parched for a sip of water. I knew if I stayed awake any longer I would land up drinking something and that would result in termination of my surgery. So there went my romantic ideas of writing on the hospital bed.

Next morning I was made to wear the green gown that showed my back to the world. I had to be very careful because my daughter was following me mischievously and I could trust her to embarrass me. I was like a curious science student wanting to see how things worked inside the operation theatre. But before long I was put to deep sleep, literally dead for the time being.

I was handed back to my family after three hours and the moment I heard their voices I made a subconscious attempt to show them Thumbs Up. I could feel them dragging my bed on a rough surface. It was hours later that I could ask for water but my wife would only wet my lips with few drops. I could feel my nostrils loaded and nose plastered. My daughter and niece found me like their cartoon character Oggy.

There after I could see people coming and going like in dreams and all I was thinking about was when would they remove the packing from my nostrils. I didn't want to remain awake and feel suffocated. I went on sleeping. Nurses came often to give me doses of medicine, which I didn't need a day ago. I was officially ill now. I needed support to sit up. I wished if I could pee in my bed. It's then I realised the real difference between sitting on the stool and lying on the bed.

After what seemed like ages, which was actually the next day, my nostrils were cleared but there was another hard plastic support which had to stay for another few days. I was discharged after that and here am I enjoying my third day of rest. My wife, sister and brother in-law are pampering me like a little child.

My nose hasn't resumed its job yet, my spine and neck are aching and I can't swallow solid food easily. But I hope these are prices I am paying for a better nose. I asked for it.

As for the bigger question on reflecting on life I realised that I don't need a hospital bed to take vacation from life. This one trial run is enough to make me realise that whatever I have to do must be rushed before I reach the hospital bed because the world in there has its own problem to solve.

P:S: Knowing it was a simple surgery I didn't want to bother anybody but many of you showed up and I must tell you it feels so good to see people when you are on hospital bed. I will always remember this. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Adopted Sister

My childhood has been interesting. Everyone who knew me as a boy has unforgettable stories to share. From the outside they must have found it adventurous. But I have been trying to forget everything because there weren’t many beautiful moments I could cherish. I don’t want to be hateful. I want to be different.

My childhood was kind of a dirty street where only few kind people had walked by and I mean the real kind ones whose kindnesses were compassionate and unconditional. Since I had only few such people in my life I am going to begin writing about them, one by one.

1997, Paro: I was in junior high school fighting for attention. I would be in trouble every other day. I wasn’t scared of any form of punishment. It seemed like I enjoyed being punished. I was avoided like a infected dog. As a dirty village troublemaker it was easy for people to hate me.
1996, Paro
Life would have been different if I was cute. It could have been forgivable if I was rich, or at least talented. I was miserable in studies, sports, music and everything that could have made life easy in junior school. I was rather into fighting most of the time. I would beaten often, and if I survived I would have it from the teachers.

But there was one girl who looked at me differently. She was quiet and gentle. She was perhaps a little older than me or a little more matured. She'd told people that I was her adopted bother. I went numb when I heard that, as if I had waited all my life to hear that. It was a culture in 90's to adopt brothers and sisters but like I said you had to be special to be chosen. People were shocked that a gentle girl had accepted the most mischievous boy in the school as her brother. I was equally shocked.

From that day I began to hide from her, and whenever I was going to do anything undesirable I would scan the whole place to make sure she wasn't around. Soon people knew about this spell that worked on me and started using her name as key to control me.

Perhaps she must be the first girl to whom I spoke softly; I called her Aue Nima. Her name was Nima Chunda. When she called me to seat with her and share her lunch, I would be the quietest boy with all the decency that I didn’t know I had. People passing by would stop to confirm if it was really me. 

That summer, I didn’t have money to go home and she had heard that. She took me to her family and gave me three best days of my childhood, until she got enough money to buy me tickets home. I had good food, slept in soft bed, visited her relatives and watched endless movies. She would take me to videocassette shops and make me choose movies. Imagine the joy of getting to watch movies of your choice in 90’s.

She would often send me her lunchbox so that I could taste a better home-cooked food. She would call me by the riverside during the weekends and help me do my laundry. She would send me gifts and goodies. I was new to all these act of kindness; I only saw those happen to other boys in the hostel. She made me feel like anyone in the hostel; wanted and normal. I suddenly began to see the world differently.

To this day I wonder how a small girl of her age had such compassionate heart to care for me, who didn’t even have a cute smile to return. She was the best thing to happen to me in my junior school.

My mother would often ask, “Where is your Aue Nima now, what’s she doing?” and the last time she asked me I told her, “Aue Nima has become a nurse. She is in Thimphu Hospital. We are in touch.” My wife and daughter heard Aue Nima's story from me more than once and we met several times.


Today, when I could help a random person somewhere I remember Aue Nima, because I know the DNA was passed down from my adopted sister. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Blogging With Dragons

Do you remember the popular column "Ask Boaz" in Kuensel K2 Mag?

Well ‘Ask Boaz’ was for more than four years the favorite tech guide and information source in Bhutan, which ran as regular column in Kuensel’s weekly K2 magazine. Boaz Shmueli would answer to questions sent in by his readers with surprising wit and simplicity. Over the years, the column subtly became the most authentic history of technology in Bhutan. 

Now the complete collection of his articles from ‘Ask Boaz’ column is put into a book "BLOGGING WITH DRAGONS" and if you are quick enough, the ebook version is on Amazon.com for free these days (Click on the Picture).
Click on the pic to download the book

As I read flip through the pages I am transported down memory lane- the times we struggled with Dialup connection to the wake of Facebook on 3G network, technical nitty gritty to online security and media literacy, KB days to coming of TB, … 
The book is the most authentic biography of technology in Bhutan. It can give a very authentic insight into the lives of people of the Bhutan, and the gradual change we underwent in the short span of time.

The book is a legacy of a foreigner who lived a meaningful life in Bhutan and impacted everyone who owned a computer, tablet or phone.


The book can still be a helpful ‘how to’ book in Bhutan and similar countries. It can be a useful technology guidebook for anybody living in or travelling to Bhutan because we are still faced with the questions that Boaz answered years ago. 

The writer Boaz Shmueli is also the author of Thimphutech.com and Creator of android app BhutaNews

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Divine Bastards

"Bastard" is not a nice word to use no matter how politely you put it. People try to polish it as 'fatherless', but how can a child be born without father? Dzongkha equivalent word for bastard is Drang, which is equally devastating, therefore in some regions it's coded as 'child of rooster'.

A person born out of wedlock is referred to as a bastard and even if you are one you don't want to be addressed so. You would rather say your father was killed by a snake than to admit that he was alive somewhere with no regard for you and your mother. But how would you react if you were a bastard of a supernatural father?

I counted three prominent figures from our past who were proud to be called bastards because they weren't fathered by ordinary beings. They were believed to be bastards of powerful local deities of three different regions. 

Paro Penlop Agay Haap was believed to be the drang of Ap Chundu, the powerful local deity of Haa, Tapön Migthol, the chief bodyguard of famous Chakpa Sangay was believed to be the drang of a local deity of Tangsibji, Trongsa and Kawang Mangkhel was considered the drang of Dechenphug Gayney. They lived with the reputation of being invincible.

Dr. Karma Phuntsho, in his book History of Bhutan, says, "Such stories of beautiful maidens being impregnated by local gods and spirits were well known in medical Bhutan and often used for explaining the unusual physical strength and agility of some men. These children with non-human fathers are often referred to as bastards or drang of particular deity or spirit and their formidable strength attributed to their non-human paternal origin. "

All the three divine bastards coincidentally lived during Jigme Namgyal's time. Imagine the bravery of Jigme Namgyal to have the heart to live and fight among people of such deadly reputation. Except for Penlop Agay Haap the two others were Jigme Namgyal's biggest hurdles in the western regions, though in different times. 

Our country saw re-ignition of civil war in 1850 during the reign of 38th Desi Wangchuk Gyalpo. Following a biased verdict that went against Agay Haap and his allies, they stabbed the desi to death and installed Zhabdrung incarnate Jigme Norbu as the 39th desi. On the other side of Dochula Chakpa Sangay appointed himself as Desi and took control of Punakha and Wangdue, thereby dividing the country into two.


Jigme Namgyal was not even Trongsa Penlop then when he was invited by Agay Haap’s Party to fight along side his cousin Desi Jigme Norbu. After the military campaign Jigme Namgyal and his two brothers stayed back in Punakha and it was then that he ambushed Chakpa Sangay’s righthand Migthol. The invincible chief of Punakha troop, who was reputed to have super human strength, died in the hands of Jigme Namgyal against whom he held grudge from their earlier meeting during the reconstruction of Punakha Dzong. 

Agay Haap was Paro Penlop for the longest time and lived up to his invincible reputation and perhaps died a natural. Among many legends, he was known for setting Zhabdrung incarnate Jigme Norbu free from Punakha Dzong when Chakpa Sangay and allies took control of the dzong. Finally it was him who put an end to Chakpa Sangay chapter by faking reconciliation and presenting him with a silken robe infected with smallpox, which killed him.

And the last divine bastard, Kawang Mangkhel appeared in the later part of Jigme Namgyal’s life when he became the 51st Desi. He was aspiring to become Paro Penlop and his brother Kusho Lama Tshewang was then the Thimphu Dzongpon. The two brothers were standing between Desi Jigme Namgyal and his absolute power over the country. In order to expand his dominance over the western region Jigme Namgyal plotted to remove the two brothers and the first target was Kawang Mangkhel, who was the invincible one. Jigme Namgyal forged alliance with Kawang Mangkhel and helped him overthrow Paro Penlop Kipsep only to let him die in the hands of his own spiritual brother Toeb Chushing and the ousted penlop on the very day of his appointment as new Paro Penlop. He was stabbed and thrown out of the window of Paro Dzong. 

Jigme Namgyal, an ordinary son of human parents removing among many the two most feared people who were considered the crossbreed of human and deities from his path, established himself as the most invincible man in the country.   


Disclaimer: This article is focused on the three interesting characters and a few diluted summary of their history. To derive real satisfaction of reading history I recommend Dr. Karma Phuntsho’s History of Bhutan and Tshering Tashi’s Myth and Memory.

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